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Last updated: 16 June, 2006 - Published 12:42 GMT
 
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Caribbean battleground for whaling dispute
 
whales
Will the future of whaling be decided in the Caribbean?
The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission is taking place in St Kitts until Tuesday.

Not only is the meeting being held in the Caribbean, but the event has placed the region, especially the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), at the centre of the international dispute.

Most of the OECS countries are members of the IWC and have been backing Japan's quest to have the ban on commercial whaling lifted.

They have also been the beneficiaries of Japanese aid for fishing projects but have vehemently denied that their votes at the IWC have been 'bought' by Japan.

The OECS includes whale watching as part of its tourism promotion campaigns.

But Keith Laurie an independent Barbados senator and environmentalist, feels this is a contradiction. (Barbados is not a member of the IWC)

"How can you promote whale watching, while at the same time you are supporting killing the very whales that you want people to come and watch."

He is also calling for the main regional grouping, Caricom, to formulate a position on the issue.

"This is an international matter that reflects on the entire region."

The indications are that for the first time in 20 years nations which favour whaling may have a majority.

 This is an international matter that reflects on the entire region.
 
Keith Laurie, Barbados senator

The expected shift comes after years of lobbying by Japan to get developing nations to join the IWC.

Environmental groups accuse these countries of voting with Japan in return for aid, a charge which the Japanese deny.

Arrogant

The basic argument is the same as it has been for years.

The self-styled pro-conservation countries led by Australia, New Zealand and the UK, believe whales are intrinsically special animals and should never be killed.

Allowing sustainable use of abundant species while protecting the depleted... we don't see the problem with that

Japan's deputy commissioner to the IWC, Joji Morishita, says the organisation has become too concerned with conservation.

He told the BBC many Japanese people felt the IWC was "arrogant" and that whales could be used on a sustainable basis.

This meant "science and probably international law" were on the side of the Japanese, he said.

"Many of the Japanese citizens thinks that westerners, (the) outside world, is imposing their own value code on Japan on an emotional basis, and naturally they think they're bullies or... arrogant."

He added: "Allowing sustainable use of abundant species while protecting the depleted... we don't see the problem with that. It's exactly the same as conservation and management of any other wildlife or fishery resources."

But if the argument is familiar, the balance of power this year looks very different.

Changes possible

St Kitts - the current battleground over the future of whaling

Four countries have just joined, of which three look set to support Japan giving it a majority on paper.

That could mean a number of important changes to the IWC.

Japan has hinted it may remove programmes aimed at conservation and whale welfare and move towards overturning the 20-year moratorium on commercial whaling, although a vote for resumption of commercial hunting at this meeting itself is highly unlikely.

Not every member nation turns up to these meetings, and the actual balance of power will not be known until two key votes scheduled for the opening day.

To try to erode Japan's support, environmental groups have been campaigning in some of the small developing nations which traditionally support Japan.

A survey commissioned by WWF suggested there was a majority opinion against whaling in all 10 of the Caribbean and Pacific states in which they polled.

WWF is urging delegates from those nations to cast their votes accordingly.

 
 
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